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Recreational fishing

Fishing and shellfish gathering are two of the most popular activities in the Harbour. There are rules to protect these resources for all to enjoy. Ohiwa Harbour is in the Auckland and Kermadec Islands' fishing region. Download up-to-date regulations or get the NZ Fishing Rules app.

Shellfish gathering

In the 1980s, the collection of mussels was stopped as mussel numbers had declined to alarmingly low levels, possibly due to storms, sedimentation or overfishing. Recent investigations have found that mussels are being predated by seastar (Coscinasterias muricata). A research project is underway to find out if this is a long-term problem and whether there are any solutions. Read more here.

Set netting

Set netting is often used in the Harbour and also along the Ohope and Ohiwa shorelines. If poorly done, set netting can result in fish wastage, by-catch of unwanted fish species, capture of seabirds and lost or abandoned nets. To find out how to 'do it right', check out the Set net Code of Practice on the Ministry for Primary Industries' website or watch this video.


Whitebaiting is also very popular, particularly in the lower reaches of the Nukuhou River. Whitebait season is open between 15 August and 30 November.  It’s important to know the rules about whitebait fishing gear to help protect our freshwater fish species, many of which are under threat. 


Navigation, boating and swimming

Ohiwa Harbour is a very popular recreational waterway. Activities such as swimming, boating, diving, wind and kite surfing, and water skiing are segregated to allow enjoyment by all. There are areas within the Harbour where recreational activities are restricted to protect native wildlife and oyster farming.

A 'must have' resource for recreational harbour users is the Whakatane and Ohiwa Harbours Recreational Guide (2.3 MB, pdf).

Swimming in the Harbour is an ever-popular pastime. A popular swimming area at Ohope stretches east for several hundred metres from the Port Ohope boat ramp (opposite the Ohope Golf Course). This swimming area is shared with personal watercraft and fishers, and is safest for young children at high tide when there is little or no current running.

There are three boat ramps, two at Ohiwa and one on the eastern side on Ohiwa Loop Road.

Tourism, accommodation and camping

If you are planning to go sightseeing around the Ohiwa Harbour you are in for a treat! There is a huge selection of things to see and do and many places to visit and stay. Here are a few examples …

For more detailed information, visit the Opotiki and Whakatane tourism information websites.

Ohiwa Harbour Heritage Trail in development

A new project for the Ohiwa Strategy partner organisations will ultimately provide interpretive information at various sites around the Ohiwa Harbour. This will allow locals, school groups and tourists to visit and learn more about what makes these areas so special. The information will showcase the natural heritage, cultural heritage, wildlife, ecological and recreation values of the Harbour.

Camping in and around the Ohiwa Harbour

There are four commercial camping grounds in the Ohiwa Harbour area, including three at Ohope Beach and one at Ohiwa. These campgrounds are listed on the accommodation sections of the Whakatane and Opotiki tourism information websites.

Freedom camping is not permitted within the Ohiwa Harbour and its catchment. Check out these websites for the most up-to-date information on freedom camping:

Vehicles and horses - on the beach and around the Harbour

Riding a horse on the beach is a great pleasure for many people and this can be done on ocean beaches adjacent to the Harbour. Riders can access the ocean beaches via the many designated walkways. Keeping to the designated walkways is important so that sand-holding vegetation in the dunes and conservation areas are not damaged.

Horses are not permitted anywhere on the mudflats or beaches in the Harbour because they can interfere with nesting birds and foul and trample shellfish beds, from which people gather kaimoana (seafood).

Vehicles, including cars, dune buggies, quad bikes, land yachts and motor bikes, cannot access the Ohiwa Harbour below mean high-water springs (the average highest level that spring tides reach over a period of time). This includes all of the mudflats or exposed areas of the Harbour as the tide recedes.

Access is allowed to certain beaches using designated access ways.